On-Employment v Pre-Employment Health Questionnaires
- Date: Friday 25th November 2016
Conducting Health Questionnaires becomes increasingly important, now that we understand increasingly that Health and Wellbeing in the workplace is a much more complex issue that needs to be addressed.
But when is it lawful to ask personal health related questions and what are the pitfalls of health questionnaires?
The introduction of the Equality Act 2010 brought with it a ban of pre-employment health questionnaires in an attempt to protect those who might have been silent victims of disability discrimination.
It also left employers unsure of what to ask, and the recommendations on the kind of questions to include vary from source to source.
Employers should consider the following:
- Don’t focus on the illness – focus on the requirement. If you are recruiting for a labour intensive role, you can ask questions such as ‘Will you be able to work in confided spaces?’ or ‘Are you aware that you’ll be on your feet for most of the day, lifting and carrying loads?’ Don’t ask ‘Do you have a disability that prevents you from lifting?’ or ‘Do you have any back issues?’ You are setting yourself up for making assumptions and displaying discriminative behaviour.
- Claims for a breach of the Equality Act 2010 by asking health questions pre employment cannot be brought by an individual. It is therefore unlikely that there are direct repercussions. However, discrimination claims may be filed by individuals who have been unsuccessful in securing the job and the Equality and Human Rights Commission can launch an investigation and prosecute if a breach is substantiated. Don’t take the risk! Ask health related questions after you have appointed the person.
- Any on-employment questionnaires must be carefully reviewed in line with the business needs. Questions must be relevant to the role of the employee. Asking somebody if they are a smoker for example, could be deemed irrelevant and therefore unlawful from an equality and data protection perspective. Think Risk – what are my workplace hazards and their relation to the individual’s general health?
- Consider employing an occupational health service to conduct questionnaires. That way, medical information will remain confidential, records are stored off-site and any concerns are flagged straight back to you in an appropriate manner. This is the safest route to achieve full compliance. A half-way house option may be to implement a basic survey and then refer any individuals with health complaints to an occupational health specialist for further assessment. Don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions. Unless you are a medically trained individual, you cannot make a decision on the medical suitability of an individual.
Source: SSG - Manuela Grossmann